How to Fish for Saltfish

by Dan Harkins
Pan-seared saltfish, or cod, has a mild flavor.

Pan-seared saltfish, or cod, has a mild flavor.

Alexandra Grablewski/Lifesize/Getty Images

Saltfish, widely known as Atlantic cod, is found in the often frigid northern waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The silvery fish has three dorsal fins on the top and two on the bottom, and can grow as large as 6 feet long. Popular in a range of culinary offerings, if you want to include saltfish in your next meal, you'll have to use favored bait, such as clams and look in the right spots, particularly reefs. It may be hard to find them, though; according to "Science" magazine, their numbers are on the decline.

Items you will need

  • Small, live baitfish
  • Crabs
  • Clams
Step 1

Get your fishing license in the state from which you're departing. Even though you're likely to be in international water when fishing for saltfish, you'll be bringing your catch back into American waters, and several states require a license if you'll be doing that.

Step 2

Check reputable offshore fishing reports for cod hot spots near where you'll be launching. According to angler Steve Walker, writing for Oh My Cod (, fishermen often find cod near reef outcroppings or sunken vessels.

Step 3

Go deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, anywhere north of Cape Hatteras, N.C. According to seasoned Atlantic anglers, cod are found at different depths, depending on the weather. In winter, they are most often found at a depth of between 295 and 440 feet, when temperatures are between 36 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. In warm months, they are most often found at 200 to 360 feet. They don't swim in large schools either, so sonar might not be effective.

Step 4

Bait your hooks with live shrimp. Cod also hit squid and baitfish such as mackerel. Clams, mussels and even crabs and sea urchins are favored foods. Use an adequate rod of at least 7 feet with at least a 40-lb. test

Step 5

Use a rattling jig, available at many bait shops and online tackle vendors. According to the Oh My Cod website, noise attracts cod.

Tips & Warnings

  • In the early spring, fish for cod in inshore waters with a shorter rod and at least a 10-lb. test line. Clams, baitfish or even worms suffice here for bait. Saltfish are not picky eaters.

About the Author

Dan Harkins has been a full-time journalist since 1997. Prior to working in the alternative press, he served as a staff writer and editor for daily publications such as the "St. Petersburg Times" and "Elyria Chronicle-Telegram." Harkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Alexandra Grablewski/Lifesize/Getty Images